Pilbara mistletoe faces sub-regional extinction

Oz Research of Note (in progress)

A new study suggests long-term modern fire regimes could pose a threat to WA mistletoes (Loranthaceae sp). Fires ignited by lightning, arson or by prescribed burning often destroy thousands of hectares in the Pilbara region. This scale of damage poses a problem for mistletoe species because of their physical vulnerability and regeneration methods.

Across species, mistletoe foliage and fresh seed are killed when scorched. Mistletoe varieties comprise a key component of Pilbara biodiversity, with many insects dependant on them for larval food, including butterfly genera Ogyris(Lycenidae) and Delias (Pieridae). Mistletoes also support the highly adapted mistletoebird (Dicaeum hiundinaceum) as well as spiny-cheeked and grey honeyeaters, important pollinators within the region.

Dr A.N. Start, WA Department of Environment and Conservation